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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: MNSure Executve Director resigns

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news Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

The executive director of Minnesota's healthcare exchange stepped down yesterday amid controversy over the rocky rollout of the state insurance marketplace. April Todd-Malmlov has faced criticism as well for taking a trip to Costa Rica last month while MNSure was still experiencing delays and technical problems. She'll be replaced temporarily by state assistant commissioner of healthcare, Scott Leitz. Minnesota's state exchange has had similar problems to the national healthcare.gov rollout, causing anxiety among consumers who have to find insurance by the end of this month to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

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A longtime state legislator from Duluth is calling it quits. Minnesota State Representative Tom Huntley announced that he will not seek re-election. The D-F-L'er represents District 7-A and is in his 11th term in the legislature. Huntley says he's leaving to pursue continued service in health care, particularly focusing his attention on primary care and rural access issues. Huntley says he feels the time is right to step aside and step into a new avenue of service where he can use his experience and knowledge to better implement health policy in Minnesota. 

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Saint Paul Police Chief Tom Smith says the Catholic Archdiocese has not been very cooperative in his department's investigation of priest sex-abuse cases. Smith says to this point investigators haven't been given access to anyone except attorneys -- and "yet the archdiocese goes public and says we're cooperating with law enforcement." The archdiocese responds they asked to meet with police department officials -- a meeting set for today  -- with the hope that they could better understand requests for information in greater detail. Chief Smith's comments Tuesday came on the same day the archdiocese announced that allegations of improper conduct have been leveled against Archbishop John Nienstedt. A boy accuses Nienstedt of touching him on the buttocks in 2009 during a group photo session after a confirmation. Nienstedt calls the allegation "absolutely and entirely false" and says he's never engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor.

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The state Campaign Finance Board has fined the state Senate D-F-L campaign 100-thousand dollars for violating campaign rules during the 2012 election. It's one of the largest such fines ever levied in Minnesota and arises from a complaint about D-F-L use of photos of Senate candidates in mailings. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the caucus campaign committee complied with all campaign finance laws and they respectfully disagree with the Board's position -- but Bakk says they believe it's better to put this matter behind them. Senate Republican Leader David Hann says the D-F-L has an ethics problem and asks, "Would they have won the majority if they hadn't cheated?"

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There's a hearing in Saint Paul federal court today (Wed 830am - Judge Donovan Frank) on the constitutionality of Minnesota's sex offender treatment program. Minnesota has been civilly committing sex offenders to the program after their prison terms end if they're judged at high risk of re-offending -- but a recent report by a court-appointed task force concluded "there is broad consensus that the current system...captures too many people and keeps many of them too long." The panel recommends a centralized, independent screening unit, plus a special civil commitment court with statewide jurisdiction -- and it says cases of committed sex offenders should automatically be reviewed every two years. Maple Grove Republican Senator Warren Limmer is urging his colleagues to reform the program, otherwise he warns the courts will take matters in their own hands -- and Limmer says the last thing lawmakers want is for them to release sex offenders into the community directly.

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The first flight from St. Cloud to Orlando, Florida departs from St. Cloud Airport today (Wed). Airport Director Bill Towle says they are excited to be offering another warm weather destination. Last year Allegiant Airlines began offering direct flights to Mesa, Arizona. Towle says they will start with two weekly flights to Orlando but then scale back to one weekly flight starting in mid-January. He says the Wednesday flights will go away and only the Saturday flights will be offered through April. Towle says this is just another step in securing direct flights to Chicago from St. Cloud.

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Hennepin County Commissioners voted 5-2 last night to forcibly seize the property of a Minneapolis couple in order to build a new library. The county reportedly sent a letter to Kevin and Valerie Holler, on 45th and Humble Avenue, in 2008 asking them to sell their house for the project. The Hollers have refused, so the county voted to exercise eminent domain, saying they need the property for the public purpose of building a new Webber Park Library. Commissioners in favor of the move said the old library building is literally falling apart, and the new one couldn't be built on the same site.

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 No one in Minnesota won the Mega Millions jackpot worth an estimated 636 million dollars in last night's drawing. Lottery officials say the two winning tickets were sold in California and Georgia. The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum. Based on the $636 million figure, the winners would receive $318 million each over time or $170 million each in cash. The winning numbers were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39; Mega Ball: 7. The jackpot resets to $15 million for the next drawing, which is on Friday night.

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